Collin College American Civilization Discussion and Responses

PART 1: Answer the following prompt in 300 words.

Over the last two years massive Mayan cities and temples have been found in Central America. What does this tell us about our knowledge of past civilizations and in particular about what we know about the American Civilizations?

New Discoveries about the Ancient Maya Excavations at Nakum, Guatemala (Links to an external site.)

‘Game Changer’: Maya Cities Unearthed In Guatemala Forest Using Lasers (Links to an external site.)

Lidar reveals the oldest and biggest Maya structure yet found (Links to an external site.)

Lasers Reveal a Maya Civilization So Dense It Blew Experts’ Minds


Classmate 1 (Craig)

In Mesoamerica, the period between the years 200 to 900 CE was called the “classic era”. According to The Earth and Its Peoples: A Global History, the Ancient Mayan civilization formed slightly before this period (~100 CE) and lasted until ~800 to 900 CE (193). It was a period of innovation, discovery, and political experimentation. During this time, Mayans built large expansive civic centers consisting of palaces, temples, tombs, irrigation canals, and even highways. Famous Mayan cities such as Tikal, Uaxactún, Copán, Bonampak, Dos Pilas, and others have amazed archeologists and quite frankly all of us. Modern-day technological advancements such as lidar (light detection and ranging radar) have uncovered new Mayan enclaves and the number is astonishing. According to Diane Davies, an archaeologist and Maya specialist based in the United Kingdom, “the total population in this period was once estimated to be a few million but in light of the new lidar data, she said it could now be closer to 10 million” (Fortin, 3). “This is a game-changer,” says Thomas Garrison, an archaeologist at Ithaca College who is one of the leaders of the project. It changes “the base level at which we do Maya archaeology.” (Kennedy, 1). Scientists used to spend years mapping ancient archaeological sites due to forestation which has encroached and obscured these sites over thousands of years. With lidar, scientists are able to map several hundred square miles in a matter of hours. The NPR article further states “By raining down laser pulses on some 770 square miles of dense forest in northern Guatemala, archaeologists have discovered 60,000 Maya structures that make up full sprawling cities” (Kennedy, 3). Scientists have literally just now discovered large areas of Guatemala are covered in Mayan settlements. Furthermore, with this new technology, scientists have more insight into how the ancient civilization functioned shedding light on farming practices and infrastructure, and also Mayan warfare. The new discoveries are an indication archeologists past and present know very little about Mesoamerican civilizations and there is so much more to learn.

Classmate 2 (April)

First off, I found these articles fascinating and exciting. I love that in the twenty-first century we are still making discoveries as significant as this about our history.

What these articles tell us about our knowledge of past civilizations is that we didn’t know nearly as much as we thought we did about our neighbors to the South. Thanks to the advent of LiDAR technology, scientists and archeologists have the ability to survey and map large areas of land in a much shorter period time than traditional excavation. What they have discovered is a civilization larger, older, and more advanced than previously believed.

We now know the Mayan civilization didn’t begin as a collection of small villages and grow slowly over time. From the beginning of their society, the Mayans existed as a vast network of city-states, connected by elaborate causeways. They were capable of designing and building monumental structures. Not all of these buildings were constructed in large settlements or organized by kings or other members of the ruling class. Thanks to advances in science and technology, such as LiDAR, archeologists also have a better understanding of the advanced methods employed by the Mayans in terms of agriculture, such as channeling water for hundreds of meters in order to irrigate huge systems of fields. We also know something of the warfare that took place between the states, thanks to the discovery of fortress and systems of interconnected watchtowers.

The Mayas were a fascinating people. In addition to giving the world the mathematical concept of zero, they created a written language of hieroglyphs, possessed a vast knowledge and understanding of mathematics and astronomy. They created not one or two, but three separate calendars. They were skilled agriculturists, builders, weavers, and potters. They understood the benefits of trade and built a series of trade routes.

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